The last working spotlight in the kitchen finally conked out as I was cooking supper, plunging everything into darkness.
As my fish began to burn and the potatoes boiled over, I called out to Steve – my partner of ten years – to change the bulb.
I could do this myself, but it is a complicated process involving stepladders and tricky manoeuvring. It’s the kind of fiddly job I can’t bear, but Steve loves.
Fizzing with health: Julia says drinking bubbly has banished her low blood pressure and made her healthier
Only this time my beloved did not leap up from the living-room couch to help when I shouted out several times.
After a few minutes, I wandered into the next room to find out why Steve hadn’t responded. My usually helpful boyfriend would normally be up a ladder within minutes of an emergency, but – not for the first time this month – he was a grouch.
Why? Ladies, I give you Dry January.
Steve is one of two million otherwise sane people choosing not to drink alcohol all month, in a bid to reverse the toll the festive season has taken on their bodies.
The result? Steve may be sober, even sanctimonious, but he’s horribly grumpy.
The annual Dry January campaign was first run by charity Alcohol Concern in 2013 and claims weight loss, more energy and ‘a healthier relationship with alcohol’ will result. That’s if it doesn’t cost you your relationship with your partner first.
I can’t be the only woman whose normally loving boyfriend or husband becomes utterly unhelpful – almost overnight.
That evening I found him scowling, determined not to hear me. Strong words were said before the bulb was replaced.
How I wish he’d just give up giving up. You’d never catch me doing Dry January. But then again, I carry on drinking not just for the first 31 days of the year but on each that follows. On doctor’s orders.
Julia has a glass of Chaampagne at 6pm sharp every evening – and enjoy it thoroughly
Yes, you read that right. I’ve actually been told by a medic that my daily glass of champagne – at 6pm on the dot – is good for my health.
Oh, how I wish other health professionals would offer similar sensible advice about moderate drinking instead of slavishly parroting Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies’ line that even a solitary glass of wine a day is bad for you and can lead to cancer. It might just save us from our modern malaise of feast or famine.
About 20 years ago I met the doctor concerned, while on a detox holiday in France. I was about 30 then and very health conscious, hence my presence at the spa hotel where he worked.
I’ve always struggled with being underweight. At that time, I was seven-and-a-half stone, which at 5ft 6in tall, made me about a stone-and-a-half underweight. This meant I was often anaemic and run down. My blood pressure was very low so I sometimes felt faint if I stood up too quickly.
It was while he was examining me he revealed: ‘Here in France, the cure for low blood pressure is a daily glass of champagne.’
Back then, I rarely drank alcohol, let alone champagne daily.
As a teenager I’d tried booze – mainly the beer and wine my parents enjoyed – but I didn’t like the taste.
This, coupled with the common indoctrination that sipping alcohol was the start of a slippery slope that led to an early death, I abstained throughout my 20s. So much so that when I married, age 26, I didn’t drink at my own wedding reception, even though the Bollinger flowed like water.
So when a mean-spirited policeman breathalysed me as I drove my new husband home – still in my white meringue and veil – I tested sober.
In fact, it wasn’t until I divorced two years later and moved to London for work that I first tried champagne.
Back then it was still hellishly expensive and considered to be utterly decadent, but I absolutely loved it.
I just wish I’d discovered it earlier. Had I taken up moderate drinking earlier I might still be married. One of the reasons for leaving my husband was being unable to stand socialising with his friends. There’s nothing more boring than being teetotal at a party.
A QUICK DRINK
When a champagne cork is popped, it reaches a speed of 40 mph. The longest recorded flight for a bubbly cork is 177ft (54m)
Back then I was prematurely middle-aged, always anxious to get back home to watch TV or have a bath. I would even stay at home on New Year’s Eve. I just didn’t realise how much a little alcohol oiled the social wheels.
I’m not talking about being falling-over drunk – but just having a glass or two to relax.
By my early 30s, after meeting that doctor, I found just half a glass of champagne imbued me with joie de vivre and new-found confidence.
An introvert, it gave me courage to schmooze at parties and butter up people who could help my career. It was perhaps due to this that my career as a writer really began to take off in my 30s.
It was then I adopted the habit that I still have today. A glass of champagne as a sharpener at 6pm.
I look forward to that heavenly pop as I release the cork, pour the fizz into a chilled glass and take a sip. It is the best bit of the day. I know drinking champagne every day may sound extravagant but as I only have the one glass, a bottle lasts more than four nights.
It works out at a fiver a pop – a bargain considering how much good it does me. And if I ever can’t afford it, I’ll simply switch to cheaper prosecco or cava.
Julia says she’s suffered fewer colds, is rarely ill and feels cheerful since she began drinking Champagne
I can truthfully say that in the 20 years since I began my regime, I’ve suffered fewer colds, am rarely ill and feel much more cheerful. Even better, it has cured my low blood pressure.
Why is champagne so good? Well it’s packed with polyphenols – micronutrients – which are thought to widen blood vessels, easing the strain on your heart and brain. Scientists have also found alcohol can aid memory and could help stave off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Yet rarely is this mentioned in official advice on booze. Instead, we’re terrorised by warnings of heart and liver disease, stroke, high blood pressure and cancer.
But my grandparents enjoyed a gin and tonic before lunch and dinner daily and a glass of wine in the evening – except on Sundays when they shared a bottle of champagne.
I look forward to that heavenly pop as I release the cork, pour the fizz into a chilled glass and take a sip. It is the best bit of the day
They lived well into their 90s. Thank goodness they didn’t endure a day or two off a week ‘to give our livers a rest’ as current health guidelines suggest.
Many today dare not thumb their nose at the health police and they suffer because of it. I have a friend who won’t touch a drop on Mondays thanks to their advice and is so desperate by Tuesday she drinks far more than usual.
‘How I dread Mondays,’ she tells me. ‘My family keep out of my way because I’m so bad-tempered’.
Honestly, what is the point of spending one seventh of your life in abject misery?
That’s the main reason I’m against Dry January. It’s a total waste of time as all it does is create a feast or famine mentality when it comes to drinking.
Up until New Year people hit the bottle with more gusto than usual because they know they’ll soon be going without and think a month off booze will magically cure any damage they’ve done to their bodies. Then, the minute February appears on the calendar, they’re back on the bottle with a vengeance.
As TV doctor Christian Jessen says: ‘I don’t support a dry January because a moderate – and I mean a moderate – intake of alcohol is actually beneficial. Alcohol can prevent against heart disease, for instance.’
What’s more it can also prevent against grumpy husbands and boyfriends. Which is surely yet another good reason to raise a glass every day?
The proceeds from this article are going to Chyfields Wildlife Sanctuary in Surrey and UK Romanian Dog Rescue.